LOS ANGELES — Kenley Jansen has pitched in three games since returning from the disabled list. He has two losses and a blown save, allowing at least one home run in all three games, easily the worst stretch of his career.
The blow on Saturday was a ninth-inning home run by Austin Hedges, tying the score 4-4 in a game the Dodgers eventually won in 12 innings, one pitch after yet another power outage at Dodger Stadium.
“The stuff was good. The command, where the bar is at. It’s not there. I still thought there was some swing-and-miss in there,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You look at that pitch to Hedges, that was middle-middle. Right in his nitro zone.”
Jansen missed 10 games dealing with an irregular heartbeat, the third time in seven years he has been sidelined with this condition. Since returning he has allowed five runs in three innings, including four home runs. Jansen allowed six home runs in his first 51 appearances this season, and allowed five and four home runs the last two years, respectively.
The Dodgers are 67-13 (.838) when leading or tied to start the ninth inning this season, including Saturday’s win even with the blown save. MLB as a whole is 1,844-276 (.870).
Last year they were 95-5 (.950).
The frustration boiled over for the usually jovial Jansen, who turned over a container of gum after returning to the dugout after the ninth inning.
“You can’t control life,” Jansen said. “Everything was going so well. The reality hits your mind and starts to slow you down. You just have to get back to it.”
Getting back to it won’t come Sunday for Jansen, who was made unavailable to pitch in the series finale by Roberts, who said Jansen is still his closer once the team resumes their schedule on Tuesday in Texas.
“To come back after down 10 days and to put him into the fire like we have, to give him two days to reset, across the board is a good thing,” Roberts said.
Jansen said he was 100% healthy, and would use Sunday to work on his command, either in a bullpen session or while playing catch off flat ground.
“I don’t need a mental break. I’m fine,” Jansen said. “I just need to figure out some stuff. I think tomorrow will be a great day to figure out my stuff, sharpen up, and be ready.
“It’s hard to explain. When the ball is running so much like that, I have to figure out, either maybe to stay back, drive a little bit more, or cut myself short. It’s a matter of being consistent.”
The timing of Jansen’s terrible week couldn’t have been more cruel to the Dodgers, who without their closer had a stretch of seven straight days with a different reliever allowing either a go-ahead or tying run in the seventh inning or later. Those unlucky sevens were supposed to be saved by the jackpot of Jansen’s return. But instead, we have an unprecedented stretch of his great career, just the fourth time he has allowed runs in three straight games and the first time he has been taken deep in three consecutive appearances.
“We all believe in him. You look at the stuff and what he’s doing, it’s not far off from where he’s been in the past,” said starter Clayton Kershaw, who left with a lead after eight innings for the second time in three starts, but didn’t win either game. “Kenley when he’s right he’ll be just fine. A couple missed locations the last few games. The velocity is there, the cut if there. It’s just a matter of time for him.”
Roberts, Kershaw, and Jansen himself all have confidence that the closer will return to form. But they have to, because without a dominant Jansen at the end of games the Dodgers bullpen formula crumbles.
“Nothing bothers me. It will be over with today before I go home with my family. I probably won’t even think about it anymore,” Jansen said. “That’s what you have to do, figure out a way to leave everything here, go home and live a normal life, then come back the next day and you will figure it out.”